By SAM EYOBOKA & OLAYINKA LATONA
THE Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, Dr. Sunday Olatunji Amos Makinde, whose investiture took place on November 12, 2006 at Trinity Methodist Church, Tinubu, Lagos, will retire as the administrative head of the church in October this year having attained the age of 70 as prescribed by the church constitution.
As part of activities marking his disengagement, Makinde will today conclude his nationwide farewell tour of 11 archdioceses of the church to bid the over five million Nigerian Methodists farewell after a glorious tenure as Prelate since 2006 with a return to where the voyage started-the Trinity Methodist Church, Tinubu, Lagos—where appreciation and outpouring of encomiums are expected to dominate the service ahead of a send forth party scheduled for the MUSON Centre, Lagos.
Methodist Church Nigeria, a major Christian denomin-ation is said to be the first Christian Church in Nigeria. It is said to have been founded in 1842 by British Wesleyan Methodist missionaries and gained autonomy from the British Methodist Conference in 1962. It is a member of the World Council of Churches as well as the World Methodist Council, among others. It also belongs to the Christian Council of Nigeria. It has an episcopal structure with a prelate, 11 archbishops and 59 bishops.
A new prelate and head of Methodist Church Nigeria (MCN) is expected to emerge on Sunday, September 1, 2013 during the 44th special con-ference of the church which is billed for Williams Memor-ial Methodist Cathedral, Ebute-Metta, Lagos Central Diocese of the church with the out-going prelate presiding.
The MCN constitution, according to the church’s Director of Media and Comm-unications, Rev. Dapo Daram-ola, says a new prelate shall be elected by an Electoral College made up of the pre-late as chairman, Lay presi-dent of Conference, Secretary of Conference who shall act as Secretary; all the 11 arch-bishops and their arch-diocesan lay presidents, 59 bishops and their diocesan lay presidents, all registered trustees of the church and seven lay persons elected by Conference made up of two women, a Conference Legal Adviser, and four others which must include the national presidents of the Women’s Fellowship, Men’s Fellowship and the Youth Fellowship.
Qualification of Prelate
The Electoral College is expected to elect from among ministers of Episcopal rank who must not be less than 60 years of age and is not under charge (disciplinary proceeding). The incumbent Prelate, or any minister of Episcopal rank acting in his stead, or any member of the Electoral College may nominate any qualified minister of Episcopal rank to the office of the prelate. Election shall be by secret ballot and a two third majority is required to elect a new prelate but in the absence of a clear winner, the two front-runners are expected to go for a second round where a simple majority will deter-mine the winner.
A Prelate shall be elected for an initial period of five years and shall be eligible for re-election for another term of five years and no more. Once elected the new prelate is expected to declare in writing his assent and allegiance to the constitution of the church in a form prescribed by the Conference and swear an oath of allegiance to God and the Constitution of the church.
Apart from being the administrative head of the church, the prelate shall be the ecclesiastical, priestly, pastoral head of the church; he shall exercise pastoral and spiritual oversight over the whole church and to this end, he is expected to visit archdioceses and dioceses and such circuit in each diocese as time and opport-unity allow. He shall also preside over the meetings of the Conference, registered trustees, MCN and confer-ence connexional council. If any person appointed as minister of circuit shall die or desist from traveling or otherwise ceases to act, the prelate in consultation with the bishop of the affected diocese may appoint a person in his place to act until the next stationing under the constitution.
Three front runners
In the Methodist Church there are about 15 archbishops and bishops who have the requisite qualifications and are therefore eligible to vie for the post but feelers from the church during the week indicate that three archbishop are the serious contenders. They include the Archbishop of Umuahia, Most Rev. Sunday Ikechukwu Agwu who was born on December 1, 1952. He joined the church in 1974 and was commissioned in 1982.
The second is the Archbishop of Ibadan, Most Rev. Michael Kehinde Stephen who was born on April 8, 1949. He entered the church in 1971 and was com-missioned in 1974. It is also worthy of note that Stephen was the Secretary of Confer-ence for about 10 years under the Prelate Emeritus Sunday Mbang. The third contender, according to inside sources is the Archbishop of Enugu, Most Rev. Samuel C.K. Uche who was born on January 29, 1953. He joined the mission in 1976 and was commission-ed in 1979.
The Electoral College being an instrument of the Con-ference has the onerous responsibility for receiving nominations and recommend-ations for the post of the prelate. It is also expected to screen eligible candidates and make appropriate reco-mmendations to the Confer-ence; such nominations shall be by secret ballot.
In a telephone interview, the Media Director told our reporter that the church has intensified prayers asking God Himself to choose a worthy prelate for the church in the mould of the outgoing one, who is regarded as a fearless but warm pastor, inspired preacher and great prayer warrior, who believes that prayer changes things! He urged all true Methodists in the country to pray fervently for the electoral exercise to produce a man with a large heart as the outgoing prelate.
Will ethnicity play any role in the forthcoming election?
A source close to the church told our reporter yesterday that it will self deceit for anybody to rule out such a possibility, saying that the Methodist Church, like any human organisation, is bound by the vagaries of human frailties. Our source is of the opinion that at the end of whole exercise the Holy Spirit will direct the affairs of the Electoral College to elect an acceptable candidate for the church of God, stressing the need for the leaders to be above any mundane consid-erations such as ethnicity or financial inducement to elect a mediocre who will take the church backward.
We aslso learnt that some persons will definitely camp-aign for certain candidates so they can vie for post of the Sercretary of Conference since it is normally by rotation.
As Methodist pray, the question on the lips of every member is: WHO SUCCEEDS OLA MAKINDE? Will he be another Sunday?